Thursday Dec 07

WilliamaPhillipB.creditRachelElizaGriffiths Phillip B. Williams is a Chicago, Illinois native. He is the author of the chapbooks Bruised Gospels (Arts in Bloom Inc. 2011), Burn (YesYes Books, 2013), and the forthcoming Thief in the Interior (Alice James Books, 2016). He is a Cave Canem graduate and received scholarships from Bread Loaf Writers Conference and a 2013 Ruth Lilly Fellowship. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Anti-, Callaloo, Kenyon Review Online, Poetry, The Southern Review, West Branch and others. Phillip is currently a Chancellor’s Graduate Fellow at the Washington University in St. Louis and is working on his MFA in Creative Writing. He is the poetry editor of the online journal Vinyl Poetry.


Wild is the Wind

I stand where I would have been covered
in falling blood—the point of the pierced
body—my reflection in the bronze skin
of the Christ sculpture hanging as if just
put into history, his brown head at the nadir
of its nod as if the very floor had summoned him
to look, he eternally forced into this position
that both casually welcomes and warns,
neither of which I wanted, which makes it
difficult to look so I stare, instead,
at the marble floor’s swirl of frost
and liquid bone, of tempestuous fog,
marble swirling the way I imagine
squalls inside the body, squalls shape-
shifting like a story passed
between mouths where the flesh is
soft and the story’s plot—as twisted
as the chimera with its lion’s head,
its snake’s tail, its goat’s body, a thing
to fear, to worship, to sacrifice—the plot
billows like smoke from the bronze
stomach of the Sicilian bull
where three human skulls were removed; 
I name them Perilous, Dictum,
and a name I will not share
with you, no, but I will share that sage
and frankincense breathed out
from beneath burnt bodies was like a name
to a kingdom of appetite and sweetness spoken,
skin raised like hands eager to claim
the naked bodies dancing around it,
their genitals salting the air, this the story
told to me: screams crawled through a pipe
into an emperor’s chamber, spurious
music, bones of the roasted victims shone
brilliantly once the bull’s belly-door opened,
opal, pearl, the many things a body can
become, little calcareous towers, well-chiseled
testimonies woven into necklaces,
an adornment warm as touch, someone
putting hands to and moving through you,
like a spiced wine, heat to swim in,
for the blood was hot and still is.


You must have lost your mind in that mother
cadence, but never the body lost

in the netting of another’s fingers,
those slender promises playing the body

mistake after mistake. To be found
by him, to let him inside seemed not a choice

but a destiny, a hard storm that falls
and those beneath who are forced to stay

staying. I slept through the whole thing,
the night rain that broke through trees

until the air was pure commotion, to wake
in the after quiet and find gems of water

had speckled the window like lenses through which
only bits of the world are made most clear.

For Joy Be Righteous

“I wonder who will sing for me when I am gone”
                                    ~Roger Reeves

No one crawl-voiced enough, no one shawl-
throated and tall tale torqueing sleep into night-
mare can neigh like the hinges of your casket-
taut joints, can sing brighter than the birds of church
hats when fans lift frills that veil a brown seeing.

In what torment and why do you find that song
is necessary adieu? Farewell, not in the dirt
landing over your body, not in the burgundy
crease the departing sun leaves behind. Farewell
discourteous dead-not-yet. My friend, won’t tears

be enough? Won’t the hollow piped wings
tearing from behind you sting enough to amnesia
you from knowing any longer a human voice?
The small animal in you thrusts for sky, rises out.


Williams photo credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths